No Good Deed-Da Great Goblin Rebellion-Part 29

Captain Alfie Riverbottom looked out from the battlements of the Keep Sinasstair. The countryside used to have a thick forest of dark oak trees that had been planted ages ago to prevent any siege of the keep. The Dire Wolves and Dire Squirrels that roamed the woods were also placed there for the same reason.

Sadly, none of those defenses worked on Abominations. Both in the general sense that they rolled into the keep like a world-famous bard and their entourage, trashing the place. But also in the sense that both the forest and the wildlife, both Dire and Non-Dire, were destroyed in the fire that was applied vigorously to get rid of these uninvited guests.

The place was clean, at least of Abomination infestation, but in terms of actual hygiene, it was still a mess. Everything smelled like burnt hair and rotting garbage. Which was strange because Abominations, for the most part, have no hair or fur.

Even though this was a thoroughly unpleasant place, Alfie was still pleased. His light artillery, the Wildefield Wingers, were instrumental in liberating this keep. Most people underestimate the sling, dismissing it as a child’s toy. Those people have never faced a squad of Halflings trained since youth to fling stones with an uncanny aim that rivals any Elven archer. Couple that with their natural stealthiness, and you’ll find yourself unconscious with numerous lumps to the head. If you’re lucky.

“Cap’n?”

Alfie turned to see one of his squad, Tulip Peasworthy.

“What’s the news Tulip?”

“Her nibs wishes a word with you Cap’n.”

“I don’t suppose she said what this was all about?”

“’Fraid not Cap’n. You know her. Not exactly the sort to invite you for tea and scones.”

“You’re not wrong about that Tulip. I better see what she wants.”

“I’ll round up the lasses and lads. Just for discipline’s sake.”

Alfie cocked an eyebrow and said, “Discipline is important.”

Entering the great hall, the Halfling passed a Daemon loitering by the entrance. He said his name was Infurnael, but Alfie figured that was a lie. Her nibs, or the Baroness Octa Sinasstair, was sitting on a pitted throne at end of the hall. The Clan Sinasstair were known for their malicious intent and inevitable betrayals. Baroness Octa enjoyed her title because she manipulated her brother Vurt, the former Baron, into believing that he could defeat the Abominations.

“Greetings Captain, may I offer you some wine?” she said as one of her soldiers picked up a pitcher.

“Thank you but no Baroness.”

She grinned, it was very unpleasant, which was perhaps the nicest thing one might say about her.

“Do you think I’m trying to poison you?”

“Yes,” he thought as he said, “Not at all, Baroness, best to be sober these days.”

“Suit yourself,” she replied as she drained her goblet.

“You wished to speak to me, Baroness?”

“I have to say,” she said as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, “When the alliance sent me a squad of little folk, I assumed that it was a ploy to take me out of the game. But I have to admit, I was wrong. Your slinger are deadly as a swarm of Murder-Flys.”

Alfie bowed. Honestly, he expected some sort of double-cross. Given the history of Clan Sinasstair, it seemed to most likely scenario.

“So, in gratitude for your service, we would reward you.”

“Very generous but completely unnecessary. We are all part of a greater whole, working towards the defense of the Land.”

This was the sort of phrase he kept in his back pocket to avoid awkward conversations, like this one.

“Don’t be so quick to refuse before you know what is offered.”

“The only reward I and my squad require is the knowledge that-”

“I’m making you Captain of my personal guard!” she interrupted.

The current Captain of her personal guard, spit out the wine she was drinking and began to cough.

“Of course, your squad will join you in service,” Octa added as she ignored the reaction of her former Captain of her personal guard.

“A great honor to be sure,” started Alfie, “But I sent word of our retaking the Keep to headquarters and I expect to be receiving new orders today.”

“Then just tell them you don’t need new orders.”

“I can’t do that Baroness, this war isn’t over.”
She stared at him as if he were turning down water after being lost in the desert.

“Being Captain of my personal guard is a great honor!”

“Of course it is, but one I must decline.”

“Do you know what you’re turning down? Being in my service means you can do whatever you wish. WHATEVER YOU WISH!”

“You already have many doughty warriors in your service, why do you need us?” he asked in an attempt to reason his way out of this uncomfortable conversation.

“My cousin, Count Bogh Sinasstor rules over Keep Sinasstor four leagues from here. It would do better under my rule. I want your sneaky little friends to help me take it.”

“So there’s two Keep Sinasstairs?”

“No, his is Keep SinasSTOR, mine is Keep SinasSTAIR.”

“Isn’t that a bit confusing?”

“Stor stair, stor stair, stor stair! You just have to listen carefully.”

Putting the sympathetic smile he used when delivering bad news, Alfie said, “As I said before, we cannot accept this most generous offer Baroness, though we are honored to receive it. Many thanks for your consideration.”

“So… you’re saying no?” asked Baroness Octa.

“With regrets,” replied Captain Alfie who was regretting this entire conversation.

“Guards! Seize him!” cried the Baroness.

“Does that mean I’m still the Captain of your personal guard?” asked the former Captain.

“What? Yes, fine, whatever. Just start with the seizing!”
Alfie did not resist. As deadly a slings-man as he was, knew that the numbers were against him. He was held on either side by two large and beefy warriors. It seemed a bit much.

“Daemon!” called the Baroness.

“You may call me Infurnael,” replied the Daemon laconically.

“I don’t care about your name! I need you to execute this traitorous Halfling.”

“Nope.”

“Is this the Feast of Insolence? Just do as I say!” bellowed the Baroness who had exhausted her reserves of pleasantries for the day.

Looking up, Infurnael said, “Let me remind you, I don’t work for you. I am not bound to you. I’m just here to burn up Abominations.”

“Guards-” she began when Infurnael shot a pillar of fire from floor to ceiling.

“Ignore this Daemon!” she said as if that were her original thought, “And drag the Halfling to the courtyard!”

They marched out the main courtyard and placed Alfie against a stone wall.

“Where are your little friends?” spat the Baroness.

“I really couldn’t say,” he answered, “and by the way, you keep calling us little like it’s an insult. We’re the proper size, you lot are grotesquely over large.”

Infurnael, who had followed them out, sniggered.

“That’s not funny!”

“More mildly amusing,” observed the Daemon.

Standing in the middle of the courtyard, the Baroness shouted, “Halflings! If you do not present yourselves immediately and swear fealty to me, I will execute your Captain and hunt you down like rabbits!”

“Do you really want to break the alliance?” asked Alfie, “You’ll be a pariah.”

“Oh please, I’m a Sinasstair! We’re already hated and mistrusted by everyone including ourselves! Besides, who’s going to tell the alliance what I did? This guy?”

She pointed to Infurnael, who shrugged.

“So, any last words?”

“More like a song really,” he replied and whistled three sharp notes.

The courtyard was filled with the sound of whizzing and cracks. Also, with stones flung with great velocity and unerring accuracy. Finally with the thudding of bodies.

“You all right Cap’n?” asked Tulip who emerged from the shadows.

“Not a scratch. Well done.”

“Just maintaining discipline.”

Just then, an automata crow descended from the sky, landed in front of Alfie, and produced a scroll from a concealed compartment in its back.

“New orders, right on time,” said the Halfling Captain.

“Do I have to come with you?” asked Infurnael.

Reading the scroll, Alfie nodded and said, “We’re stuck with each other for now.”

Infurnael swore for about five minutes as the Halfling squad gathered their things.

“Are you tired of burning Abominations?” asked Alfie.

“There better be a lot of them, except for you killing those guards, this has been a very dull day.”

“We’re heading to an incursion on the plains of P’nar.”

“Is that a wide plain?”

“Very. Should be lots to incinerate.”

“Promises, promises,” sighed the Daemon.

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